Report addresses potential for biodiesel in Africa

By Erin Voegele | September 01, 2011

The Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) recently published a study assessing the potential for biofuel production in Africa. The study, titled “Assessing Opportunities and Constraints for Biofuel Development in sub-Saharan Africa,” addresses how biofuel production could increase the region’s energy security while creating job opportunities.

The report states that there are examples of developing biodiesel production models in Zambia based on jatropha production. According to the authors, while these projects in Zambia are based on small-scale production rather than large-scale plantations, the long-term sustainability of such a model has not been proven. The authors point out it could lead to small farmers bearing the burden of raising an unviable feedstock.

The study also points out that biodiesel produced in Africa is likely to be used to meet local needs rather than entering national or international fuel markets. According to the study, B100 could be used to replace diesel in many diesel engines. “Older and less complex engines, providing they have no rubber seals, can easily use biofuels,” stated the study. “It is technically feasible for a rural community to produce their own fuel for trucks and tractors, and hence make extensive savings on fuel purchases.”

The study also notes that diesel prices in urban areas within Africa are already high. The diesel prices are even higher in the rural areas of Africa. According to the report’s authors, small-scale biodiesel plants able to maintain an acceptable fuel quality are reasonably inexpensive and reasonably simple to operate, and could be used to produce fuel for use in rural areas. The study states that while human capacity and financing are key constraints to the development of these small-scale rural facilities, the potential benefits of the production model could be substantial.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the CIFOR website.


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